Description The Biology Department at Western Washington University has openings for graduate students starting Fall 2023. Faculty members in the department offer a wide range of expertise, from molecular biology to ecology. Graduate students are eligible for teaching assistantships, which fund the majority of tuition and provide a stipend of $15,300 per 9-month academic year ($5100 per quarter). WWU is located in Bellingham, WA, a coastal city north of Seattle at the base of Mt. Baker in the northwestern part of the state. We strongly advise interested students to contact potential advisors in their area of specialty to get more details about individual labs.


Potential advisors:

Shawn Arellano: Marine invertebrate larval ecology and deep-sea ecology. The Arellano lab has an opportunity to study hydrothermal-vent ecology as part of an NSF-funded project. Research training opportunities may include larval culturing and embryology, larval physiology and behavior techniques, ecological experimental design, use of oceanographic equipment, microscopy, and/or molecular ecology approaches.

Jim Cooper: The Cooper lab is currently looking for students interested in working within two broad areas: 1) the development of marine fishes endemic to the Pacific Northwest; and 2) using a model fish species (zebrafish) for experimental studies of skull morphogenesis. We are currently focused on developing methods for working with marine fish species to answer questions relevant to local ecology and ecosystem management. Our zebrafish research is primarily directed at understanding the controls of skull formation within an evolutionary context (Evo-Devo focus). We are particularly interested in recruiting students who have experience working with marine fish development, but because our lab is highly integrative, we can accommodate new colleagues with a diverse range of interests.

Lina Dalberg: The Dahlberg Lab uses the model organism C. elegans to probe the neurobiological, cellular, and behavioral role for proteins involved in a ubiquitin-dependent processes called Endoplasmic Reticulum Associated Degradation (ERAD). Student projects will use a variety of techniques, including fluorescence microscopy, behavioral assays, and biochemical characterization to investigate how ERAD targets neural receptors for degradation. A second, NSF-funded project focuses on teaching and learning in undergraduate science laboratory courses; students interested in this project should have experience (via coursework or research) in education and pedagogy research.

Nick Galati: Cell biology and organelle dynamics. Cilia are evolutionarily ancient, hair-like projections that generate hydrodynamic force and process extracellular information. The goal of our lab is to understand how cells build cilia, with a specific focus on how individual proteins traffic to and from a structure at the base of cilia, called the basal body. We aim to create a spatial map of protein movement to and from cilia as they assemble and sense the environment. To do this, we combine high-resolution fluorescence microscopy with digital image analysis to detect and quantify ciliary protein trafficking in space and over time. Our analyses are primarily conducted in mammalian cells and in the protist Tetrahymena. Please contact me at ( to discuss graduate opportunities.

Suzanne Lee: Current research in the Lee Lab is focused on understanding the biological impacts of mysterious non-protein coding RNAs, with the broad goal of elucidating the underlying molecular mechanisms that govern RNA production, function, and degradation to maintain optimal cellular health. A major focus of Lee Lab research at the moment is on elucidating the molecular mechanisms by which endogenous RNA interference pathways protect genomes from accumulated DNA damage.

We are also interested in how proteins involved in RNA interference pathways are regulated and how long non-coding RNAs are recognized for small RNA production through RNA interference pathways. To address these and other questions, we employ the tools of biochemistry, molecular biology, bioinformatics, microscopy, cell biology, and reverse genetics, using the ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila as our model eukaryotic system.

Craig Moyer: My interests are marine microbiology and geomicrobiology focusing on molecular approaches for exploring microbial diversity, community structure and ecological interactions. Presently, my lab and I are focused on the study of iron-oxidizing Zetaproteobacteria acting as the ecosystem engineers in microbial mats found at strong redox boundaries, including seep, spring and vent habitats. We are also examining the evolutionary divergence of surface and deep subsurface Zetaproteobacteria in hydrothermal systems.

Brady Olson: Microzooplankton consume approximately 70% of marine phytoplankton primary production, making them the most significant grazers in the ocean and drivers of globally-important biogeochemical cycles. My interests are gaining understanding of the mechanisms that govern the ecology of these important zooplankton, primarily the factors that regulate their feeding behavior.

Merrill Peterson: Insect Ecology, Evolution, and Diversity. The primary focus of our research is on Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) diversity in the Pacific Northwest. Included in this research is field surveys examining landscape-scale factors affecting community composition, efforts to identify and describe new species, and development of web-based biodiversity resources to facilitate the work of professional entomologists and citizen scientists.

Laura Pillay: The Pillay Lab uses zebrafish and cell culture systems to identify and understand molecular mechanisms that regulate blood vessel development and integrity. Endothelial cells form the innermost layer of all blood vessels and serve as a physical barrier to regulate transport between the blood and the tissues. Brain endothelial cell barrier disruption produces a spectrum of disease that includes neurologic dysfunction, cognitive impairment, disability, or death. Student projects will use modern imaging, molecular biology, and genetic approaches to investigate how the small monomeric GTPase RHOA regulates endothelial cell biology and contributes to vascular disease states.

Lynn Pillitteri: Plant Molecular and Developmental Biology. A potential graduate project in my lab would be aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms driving cell type differentiation in the model organism, Arabidopsis thaliana.

Dan Pollard: Genetics, Molecular Cell Biology, Bioinformatics and Genomics. We are broadly interested in the causes of cellular trait variation. Most current projects are focused on the genetics of protein synthesis and decay in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker’s and brewer’s yeast). Protein expression differences between individuals are a major driver of human diseases and species adaptation, yet little is known about the mechanisms by which DNA differences in genes modulate protein levels post-transcriptionally.

Students in the lab use forward genetic, genome engineering, and fluorescence microscopy approaches to locate and study protein expression DNA variants. Students also use bioinformatic and genomic approaches to test hypotheses about post-transcriptional gene regulation. Graduate and undergraduate students typically work collaboratively in teams on projects and there are opportunities to develop new research directions. Please email me ( if you are interested in joining our team.

Dietmar Schwarz: Ecological and Evolutionary Genetics and Genomics, Evolutionary Ecology. Schwarz’s lab offers opportunities to study speciation, hybridization, and adaptation in host specific insects (apple maggot flies and relatives). The Schwarz lab also collaborates with Alejandro Acevedo on the molecular ecology of foraging in harbor seals.

Anu Singh-Cundy: Plant Cell Biology and Biochemistry. We study cell-cell interactions at the physiological, cellular, and molecular levels. Current projects are focused on understanding the role of HD-AGPs, which are extracellular glycoproteins that are expressed in the transmitting tissue of the pistil and in the vasculature of roots and shoots. We also study pectins and pectin-modifying enzymes found in the pistil of solanaceous species.

Adrienne Wang: Molecular mechanisms of aging and neurodegeneration. The Wang lab is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms of neurodegenerative disease and in identifying genetic modifiers that confer susceptibility or resistance to disease. We are especially interested in understanding how conserved signaling pathways that affect aging may interact with and mediate disease onset and progression. Current projects use fruit fly models of Alzheimer’s disease and mitochondrial disease to investigate these questions using a range of genetic, pharmacologic, and molecular techniques.

Matthew Zinkgraf: Research in the Zinkgraf lab is focused on the ecological and evolutionary genetics of undomesticated forest trees. To accomplish this research, we apply an interdisciplinary approach that utilizes methods from computational biology, genetics/genomics, molecular biology and forest ecology. Ongoing research in the lab is concentrated around two main projects. First, creating genomic resources for Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), and apply these resources to understand patterns of genetic variation and selection. Second, investigating the genetic regulation of wood formation in Populus by understand how epigenetic modifications at specific genes can alter gene expression and regulatory networks.

You can find more information with the following resources:
• The Biology Dept:;
• The WWU Graduate School:;
• Dr. David Hooper, Biology Graduate Program Advisor, hooper at;

Contact Person David Hooper Contact Phone 360-650-3649 Contact eMail

Salary $5100/qtr + tuition waiver

Start Date 09/16/2023

Last Date to Apply 02/01/2023

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